Friday, June 18, 2010

Art and Guadalajara

One of the nicest things about being in Mexico is the tradition of public art, specifically wall mural art on public buildings. It's a post-revolutionary notion that art should not only be public and available to all people regardless of income level or class status (as opposed to hidden away in some gallery that may require an entrance fee), but also educational and informational about the country's history. Consequently, one can go just about anywhere in Mexico and see gorgeous and massive murals that are artistically stunning and also representative of Mexico's history and its national heroes. One of the city of Guadalajara's native sons is Jose Clemente Orozco, one of Mexico's "big three" post-revolutionary muralists (along with David Alfaro Siqueiros and Diego Rivera), so his art can be found all over. Yesterday, I took my group on our regular tour of Guadalajara's historic district, where we had a chance to see some of the Orozco murals. Here's one image of Mexico's main independence figure, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, that appears in the main stairwell of the state Palacio de Gobierno, where the state legislature used to meet:

This is just one little section of a huge mural.

There are also many Orozco murals in the impressive Hospicio Cabañas, which we got to see, also, but which I don't have pictures of.

We'll be taking a trip to Mexico City towards the end of the program where we'll have the chance to see some of the great mural artwork of Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros, too. But the legacy of the Mexican muralist movement has produced a wonderful, expanded culture of public wall art. And, if you look for it, you can find it in the most mundane places. For example, the wall on the building of the corner of Avenida Enrique Diaz de Leon and Avenida Niños Heroes has a contemporary, life size mural that I see regularly on my walks to and from the place where I am staying:

You can't really see the inscription for this mural in this picture, so I took a closeup shot of it:

The idea of public art in Mexico, captured best by the the muralist movement, is not just limited to wall murals. It also can be seen in the multitude of sculptures and monuments that one comes across everywhere. Sometimes, the contrasts between artistic traditions and contemporary daily living make for a very interesting visual reality. For instance, in this photo below you can see a sculpture of a person I assume is a notable Guadalajaran literary figure and poet (and who is presented as a gawking old codger) whose backdrop includes a "Ladies" garment store. When you look straight at the sculpture from directly in front of it (which appears on Avenida Chapultepec), the superimposition of the visual imagery of the Ladies garment store above the sculpture makes for a rather humorous sight -- an image of a lady in scanty, sexy clothing, seated in a somewhat provocative position, and looking down on the gawking old poet -- thus adding a whole new dimension to the impact of public art. I leave you with this visually contrasting image for your consideration:

Mexico is such a rich and interesting place!

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